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Dozens injured as man drives into hiking group

DAMASCUS, Va. -- Fifty to 60 people were injured yesterday when a driver described by witnesses as an elderly man drove his car into a group of hikers marching in a parade in a small Virginia mountain town.

It happened around 2:10 p.m. during the Hikers Parade at the Trail Days festival, an annual celebration of the Appalachian Trail in Damascus, near the Tennessee state line.

Washington County director of emergency management Pokey Harris said no fatalities had been reported.

The injuries ranged from critical to superficial, he said. Three of the victims were flown by helicopters to regional hospitals. Another 12 to 15 were taken by ambulance. The rest were treated at the scene.

At a news conference, Damascus Police Chief Bill Nunley didn't release the driver's name or age but said he was participating in the parade.

Nunley said the man's 1997 Cadillac was one of the last vehicles in the parade and the driver might have suffered an medical problem when his car accelerated to about 25 mph and struck the crowd on a two-lane bridge along the town's main road. The driver was among those taken to hospitals.

"It is under investigation and charges may be placed," Nunley said.

There were ambulances in the parade ahead of the hikers and paramedics on board immediately responded. Nunley cited the "quick action" by police, firefighters, paramedics and hikers to tend to the victims, including a volunteer firefighter who dove into the car to turn off the ignition.

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